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Grand Canyon to Start Rugby with Over 50 Players

College Men

Grand Canyon to Start Rugby with Over 50 Players

Te grand experiment in Arizona is underway, as Grand Canyon University begins a full rugby season under the auspices of the Athletics Department.
 
GCU’s rugby team isn’t technically varsity, but it’s as good as, and already has become a big part of the school. Ryan Kelly and Merrick Firestone have been hard at work putting together a rugby team, and the squad will number over 50 once classes begin.
 
In fact, officially, GCU Rugby was supposed to start this fall, but so many students on campus last spring were interested, Kelly got permission to start working with those players early. All they did was practice, and play one scrimmage, but those players are hooked, and 30 more are slated to come in from high school rugby programs.
 
Of the over 50 players he expects at the first practice, Kelly will be looking at 25 freshmen, and only two seniors.
 
“What’s been great is we’ve been able to offer in-state tuition for a lot of players and that makes it really affordable,” said Kelly. “A lot of other kids have been able to get academic scholarships because their test scores are good. Most of our players are paying less than $12,000 for tuition, room, and meals.”
 
That’s impressive, and a result, in part, of Grand Canyon’s desire to increase the student population. Rugby sets them apart. The team is still a club sport, but has access to facilities and support personnel on campus, and remains part of the Athletics Department.
 
Most of the freshman recruits to GCU are accomplished high school players. Darien Pickett is a High School All American. Kris Scheckels was the MVP of the Virginia state select side, Andrew Fraczek was the MVP of the Illinois select team. Nick Kwasniewski and Austin LaGow were, like Scheckels and Fraczek, Stars & Stripes players.
 
But more than that, GCU has depth, and youth, giving Kelly, Firestone, and staff some time to mold a team.
 
GCU will play an independent schedule this coming year, with  few 7s tournaments in the fall and then games against the likes of Arizona State, San Diego State, Arizona, and New Mexico through the winter and spring. (By the way, they are pretty open in March if you want to take a trip to Arizona.)
 
“We’ve received a lot of support from the schools in the region,” said Kelly. “Gary Lane at Arizona State has been awesome. We are hoping to get a few home games this year to showcase the game on campus. Right now we’re just happy to get started.”